Industry Comes Together Amidst Midwest Flooding

Portable restroom operators in Iowa are banding together to help each other and to help a local school deal with a severe water shortage

Industry Comes Together Amidst Midwest Flooding

An image of the flooding in southwest Iowa. (Photo contributed by Clay Lincoln of Linkon Logs Portables)

Heavy rainfall and rapid snowmelt in mid-March triggered catastrophic flooding in Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Missouri, forcing thousands of people from their homes. The fast-rising floodwaters left long-lasting effects. Thousands of homes and businesses have been lost, along with crops, livestock, roads and other critical infrastructure.

The students and staff in the Glenwood Community School District in southwest Iowa will remember the flood of 2019 for a long time. Above all, they’ll remember the devastation of homes, businesses and farms. But they’ll also remember something more mundane — the loss of a simple luxury most people take for granted: flushing the toilet.

Students and staff at three of Glenwood’s four schools are using portable restrooms for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, portable restroom operators in Glenwood, Shenandoah and Pacific Junction supplied 80 portable units to the schools this month. Located on higher ground, the schools escaped flood damage, but the Glenwood water utility was not as lucky.

“Our water treatment plant has been compromised by the flood,” says Devin Embray, Glenwood Community School District superintendent. “We’re the major users of water in the community, so they’re asking us to try to help conserve water.”

West Elementary (grades three to five), Glenwood Community Middle School (grades six to eight), and Glenwood Community High School (grades nine to 12) have been using portable restrooms since March 21. Northeast Elementary (preschool to second grade) continues to use its school’s bathroom facilities.

Glenwood Community School District. (Photo contributed by Clay Lincoln of Linkon Logs Portables)
Glenwood Community School District. (Photo contributed by Clay Lincoln of Linkon Logs Portables)

“We’re on bottled water for drinking and portable restrooms for flushing, and we’re still having school,” Embray says. “We have a pretty high attendance rate, and we feel pretty good about that.”

He says the portable restrooms were a tough sell at first, but they’re becoming part of the normal school routine. The water conservation measures have affected the entire district, including food service, transportation and custodial work.

“Every department is just really stepping up and joining hands together to get us through this difficulty. I’m very impressed with our staff. Everybody’s working extra hours to make this the best experience we can make it,” Embray says.

It’s unclear when the water utility will lift the water restrictions. First, 8 feet of floodwater needs to recede from around the treatment plant.

“We’re in this for the long haul, 30 days, if not more,” Embray says.

The entire community is under a boil-water notice, so everyone is feeling the flood’s effects. The city is drilling a new well, but this water will not be for consumption.

Growing out of this tragedy is an abundance of community support. For the school district, this support comes in the form of donated bottles and jugs of water.

“We’re very, very grateful to all the businesses and individuals who gave us water,” Embray says. “I’m very proud of this community. Everybody has stepped up to help get us through this flood.”

Cooperation among portable restroom operators

Clay Lincoln, owner of Linkon Logs Portables of Pacific Junction, is seeing that same cooperation among the portable restroom operators in the region.

“There’s been no bickering back and forth between our businesses,” he says. “We’ve called each other and said, ‘This customer needs this. Do you have it?’”

Linkon Logs Portables has 16 portable restrooms and one restroom trailer at the high school. Lincoln services them once or twice a day.

Lincoln’s three teenagers and a few buddies helped clean the portable restrooms after the flood, just one more example of cooperation. Others from the community also stepped up to help in their own way, including Mark Hughes Construction of Glenwood.

“When the school called and needed all of these restrooms, Mark even let me pull them off some of his job sites to provide for the schools,” Lincoln says.

The demand for portable restrooms is so high in the area, Lincoln called his supplier, Satellite | PolyPortables, asking how many units they could ship him. Satellite | PolyPortables sent him 22 and processed his order quickly, without a lot of red tape. “It was pretty amazing,” Lincoln says.

Lincoln, a full-time firefighter for the city of Omaha, Nebraska, opened Linkon Logs Portables three years ago. Initially, he serviced the restrooms at a campground he owns. Over time, he gained clients and grew the business to about 40 units.

Before the flood, Lincoln moved his portable restrooms to a safe area. Still, he lost five units in the flood. Toilet paper and deodorizers also were lost.

His losses don’t end there; 1,500 acres of farm fields he works with his father are underwater. So is the 114-site campground he owns on the banks of the Missouri River. Lincoln’s portable restroom shop and farm shop were under water, and his father’s farmhouse had 6 feet of water on the main level.

Lincoln and some buddies worked around the clock to evacuate his dad’s home and the family farm. A friend took in the family’s 26 goats.

“The damage around here is incredible,” Lincoln says. Floodwaters were as high as the eaves on some homes. The Missouri River has a history of flooding, and conditions were right for an epic disaster this year.

“We had warmth and ice jams and rain — everything came at one time,” Lincoln says. Iowa’s Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a disaster proclamation on March 13, and President Donald Trump issued a federal declaration on March 23.

Despite the losses, Lincoln chooses to focus on the gains. Neighbor helping neighbor; business helping business. He’s grateful for the support of family, friends and fellow portable restroom operators.

“It’s pretty amazing how everybody pulls together, and especially this industry,” Lincoln says.



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